With almost 6 million Texans living among 21,000+ HOA communities across the state, creating new HOA rules in Texas can be a daunting task for any board. However, rules are the foundation of any successful association. Well-crafted policies can simplify operations for your community, elevate the resident experience, enhance the value of homes, and help the board maintain a good rapport with homeowners.

Before we go any further, let’s first address the difference between “rules” and “policies.”

Rules vs. Policies

Rules are typically more specific and straightforward, outlining what homeowners can and cannot do within the community. Examples of HOA rules might include things like restrictions on the types of cars that can be parked in driveways, limitations on the size and number of pets that residents can have, or guidelinesNew HOA Rules in Texas for where and when outdoor activities can take place.

Policies tend to be more general, outlining the overall goals and objectives of the community's leadership. While policies may not always be enforced in the same formal way as rules, they can still be incredibly important in shaping the way a community operates. Examples of HOA policies might include decisions about how money is spent on community facilities, guidelines for how board members are elected, or committees that are formed to address specific issues or needs within the community.

Before making new HOA rules in Texas, board members and homeowners should fully understand where “rules” and “policies” fall in the hierarchy of HOA or COA documents. These documents not only define important terms and describe the association's responsibilities, but they also outline what is expected of every homeowner.

Hierarchy of HOA or COA documents

Texas laws and regulations – top tier laws that every association must follow to create new HOA rules in Texas; outline general requirements of all associations, like registering with the state and creating an annual budget.

Governing documents (CC&Rs, bylaws, articles of incorporation) – mid-tier, created by the board; establish the functions of the association, cost of membership fees, and how to identify and address any violations.

Rules and Regulations – lowest-tier, typically developed by the HOA board and enforced by a property management company or individual property manager; pertain to specific “dos and don’ts” for homeowners (like noise restrictions and home maintenance guidelines); support association’s effort to improve the overall community, keep residents safe, and increase property value.

When can HOAs make new rules (a.k.a. community policies)?

When your board has a firm grasp on their governing documents, members can draft new HOA rules and regulations, also known as community policies. The most common types of association rules and regulations are to address safety and maintenance issues, including:
  • trash and recycling
  • decoration and property upkeep
  • occupancy and rental requirements
  • updated local laws for amenities and common areas (pools, gyms, etc.).

How do boards make new HOA rules in Texas?

Start with common sense. New HOA rules in Texas should always solve real problems, not create more headaches. Each policy should support the board’s effort to improve the community’s safety, maintenance, and value without invading homeowners’ privacy. In other words, rules should never be created just for kicks.

Board members can create new rules and regulations (via amendments) without residents’ approval, but should still consider their input. You should however ask for feedback from your community manager and fellow board members.
New HOA Rules in TexasTo enforce new HOA rules in Texas, there are a few crucial questions all board members must ask themselves.

5 Essential Questions To Ask Before Making New HOA Rules in Texas

Question 1: Is this policy necessary for our community? 

When considering creating new HOA rules in Texas, it's important to ensure it's necessary and beneficial for everyone. To do this, ask yourself these follow-up questions:
  • Does the policy balance property values with resident well-being and homeowner freedom?
  • Is it designed to achieve a specific outcome or goal, rather than based on personal preferences or arbitrary reasons?
  • Am I motivated by political pressure or a personal agenda?
Association buy-in is vital for successfully introducing policies. All board members should understand the benefits of a newly created rule so they can educate residents about it was created in the first place. It’s easier to enforce a new policy when homeowners know the intention behind it.

Question 2: Does this policy align with local laws and ordinances? 

Creating a new policy can feel a bit like making a jigsaw piece to fit multiple puzzles. New policies must fit perfectly with your community’s current rules and bylaws, and they should fit the even bigger puzzle board: Texas statutes for POAs.  

Therefore, it’s a good idea to brush up on current local laws and ordinances before making new HOA rules in Texas.

In summary, to ensure you’re covered in legal terms, take these steps:
  • Make sure your new policy doesn’t contradict any current Texas statutes for POAs.
  • Verify that it aligns with your association's current governing documents.
  • Let your management company review any new rules before finalizing to ensure consistency with both Texas laws and community governing documents.
Communities are always evolving, so it’s up to boards to make sure the rules evolve, too. New HOA rules in Texas may be a board’s response to a change in local laws or a spur-of-the-moment response to an emergency. Either way, by following these guidelines, you can confidently introduce new HOA rules in Texas communities that are legally compliant, and most importantly, enhance residents’ well-being.

Question 3: Will homeowners understand how to follow the policy?  

To avoid frustrating homeowners, keep introduction of new rules simple. Seek homeowners’ input, communicate what the update means to them and the community, and explain what they need to do to follow it before it's implemented. Simplify this process by taking this 3-part approach to introducing new HOA rules in Texas communities:

Educate - Use different channels to communicate the policy change, such as community websites, newsletters, emails, bulletin boards, and direct mail. Ensure that the policy is written as simply and clearly as possible, making sure to ask for feedback before it's finalized.

Be reasonable – Rulemaking is a balancing act; boards must equally weigh community needs, resident safety, and making sure homeowners still have personal freedom.

Stay consistent – Apply the rules equally to every community member to motivate all residents to comply. Having a professional management company on your side makes consistent communication easy. Community managers can independently promote implementation and ensure personal information and relationships are not affected in the violation process.

Question 4: Is the policy fair and reasonable?  

Sometimes it’s tempting to immediately create new rules when faced with frustrations or concerns. This bigger the problem, the greater the temptation to write an overly strict rule that can cause more trouble than it solves. Keep a balanced perspective and ensure that your policies are fair, reasonable, and consistent. 

It's also vital that you allow some room for personal judgment and leniency once the policy takes effect. It’s worth re-emphasizing that rules should be applied to everyone and enforced fairly; your community members won't respect them if they feel unfairly targeted.

To make sure that your policy has this unbiased approach, ask yourself these follow-up questions:
  • Are we considering the big picture when creating rules?
  • Will the policy be enforced fairly?
  • Does the policy make sense for our entire community?
  • Did we leave enough room for personal judgment and leniency after the policy goes into effect?
A professional management company can provide unbiased, easy-to-follow enforcement of new HOA rules in Texas communities and won’t make your board look like the “bad guy.”

Question 5: How relevant is our policy? 

Timeliness is key, so listen closely to any ongoing concerns among your community members. To make sure a rule stands the test of time, when addressing the most pressing issues, always forecast how a new policy will affect the future of today and tomorrow’s homeowners.  

For example, if short-term rental policies are a hot topic among residents, make sure your policies reflect that. Also, consider where residents are talking about these topics, whether it’s via social media posts, online reviews, or other word-of-mouth methods. It’s extremely important to keep your community’s reputation in mind when introducing any new HOA rules in Texas.

Lastly, put a reminder on your board’s calendar for an annual review of policies and rules to ensure they still apply. Legislation may change (example: Senate Bill 1588 of 2021) and require adjustments in enforcement, so it’s essential to make updates or eliminate policies as needed.

Anticipate homeowners’ responses.

As a board member, you volunteer your time and effort to help develop policies that will improve resident safety and enhance property values. Although association rules are made to benefit the entire community, it can be difficult to get 100% buy-in from residents right away. Hear them out on their opinions and see it as an opportunity to promote participation!

Encourage homeowners to engage with the board and join committees to be more hands-on in future policymaking. Help them understand board member basics as well as the “how” and “why” behind new HOA rules in Texas. Residents who get directly involved can offer a fresh perspective for boards to consider before creating future policies.
In conclusion, creating new HOA rules in Texas is a team sport. Before your board adopts a new policy, make sure you’re asking the right questions. A seasoned community management company will offer guidance, ensuring that rules are fair, reasonable, and communicated clearly to residents. Harnessing the expertise of community managers can simplify policy implementation, enforcement, and documentation (which, let’s face it, no one wants to deal with!), making their input invaluable right from the start.

Click here to learn more about how a professional management company like FirstService Residential Texas can simplify the process of policymaking so your association can focus on elevating homeowners’ lives.
Tuesday May 23, 2023